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Old North State Report

April 5, 2019

Old North State Report – April 5, 2019

State Health Plan

HB184, “Study State Health Plan Design,” cleared the NC House on Wednesday with bipartisan support.  The bill now moves to the Senate for further debate.  If passed, the bill would block proposed changes to the state employee health insurance plan by Treasurer Dale Folwell and establish a committee to study and report on redesigning the State Health Plan for teachers and state employees that adopts new practices and payment methodologies. 

Certificate of Need

April 2nd marked the bill filing deadline in the NC Senate, and file they did with over 200 bills in just two days.  One topic of specific interest to several key Senators seems to be that of CON – “Certificate of Need.”  Five bills related to the repeal and/or modification of North Carolina’s CON laws have been filed in the past two weeks:  SB323 (Exempt Vascular Access Providers from CON), SB361 (Health Care Expansion Act of 2019), SB539 (Repeal CON Laws), SB646 (Amend CON Laws), HB173 (Exempt Ocular Surgery from CON Laws).  The current NC Certificate of Need (CON) law prohibits health care providers from acquiring, replacing, or adding to their facilities and equipment, except in specified circumstances, without the prior approval of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Increased Bill Introductions

There was a flurry of bills introduced this week as bill filing deadlines approached (Senate was April 2 and House was April 16).  Over 240 bills introduced in the Senate and 100 bills introduced in the House.

Commissioner of Banks

On Wednesday the Senate passed unanimously House Joint Resolution 147 confirming Governor Cooper’s reappointment of Raymond E. Grace as Commissioner of Banks.  The Resolution had previously passed the House with a unanimous vote.  This is Grace’s second term as Commissioner and it will run from April 1, 2019 until March 31, 2023.

Coal Ash Cleanup

Duke Energy Corporation has been ordered by North Carolina’s environmental agency to excavate coal ash from all of its North Carolina power plant sites.  While excavation of the sites will reduce dramatically the risk of toxic chemicals leaking into the ground water, it will potentially add billions of dollars to power bills in North Carolina.

The Company had wanted to cover the storage pits with a waterproof cap which would permit rain from passing through the pits and carrying chemicals through the unlined bottoms.  This would be a much less expensive method of dealing with the coal ash.

In response to the order, Duke said excavation of some sites will take decades, stretching well beyond the current state and federal deadlines.  Based on current estimates and closure time frame, excavating these basins will add approximately $4-$5 billion to the current estimate of $5.6 billion for cleanup in the Carolinas.

The debate over whether the company can or will comply with the cleanup order will continue in the General Assembly with the introduction this week of legislation addressing the issue; HB567 Coal Ash/ Prohibit Lost Recovery/Proper Disposal (Harrison) and HB572 Require Proper Disposal Certain Coal Ash Impoundments (Setzer)